Harnessing the Internet of Everything to Serve the Public Good

Brian Gill at Socrata: “…Thanks to sensor-based objects, big data is getting bigger, and that presents opportunities — and considerations — for government organizations.

Picture this: It’s a sunny summer’s day a few years from now, plants are in full bloom, and you’re strolling through a major city park. Unfortunately, your eyes are watering as the itchy beginnings of a pollen-induced allergy attack begin to compromise the experience.

Pulling out your phone, you consult a data visualization showing the park’s hour-by-hour pollen count densities. You then choose a new path, one with different vegetation and lighter pollen counts, and go about your way, barely noticing the egg-shaped nodes in the canopy monitoring everything from pollen to air quality to foot-traffic trends.

Welcome to the Internet of Everything, city edition.

….tapping into, and especially generating, IoT data streams is a natural fit for larger municipal governments who not only have the fiscal resources needed to put IoT data to work, they have an innate motivator: improving citizens’ lives.

Consider Chicago’s Array of Things project, an experimental network of modular sensor boxes installed around the city’s core. Think of it as an urban fitness-data tracker: The nodes collect real-time data on the city’s environment and infrastructure for research and public use, with the first units focusing on atmosphere, air quality, and environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and light.

From this data alone, the potential applications are exciting, such as using air, sound, and vibration data to monitor vehicle traffic, or infrared sensors to measure street temperature to guide salting responses during winter storms. The thinkers behind Array of Things can even envision a downtown where street lamp poles alert pedestrians to icy sidewalk patches and apps guide people to safe nocturnal walking routes.

This is all cool stuff, but “outcome” is the key word here, says McInnis, who recommends a bottom-up approach when assessing IoT opportunities. Instead of worrying whether you currently possess the technical infrastructure to harness IoT data, he says, first determine what you want to achieve, be it water quality monitoring or winter sidewalk safety, and then work from there — you may even already have IoT data streams that can be redeployed.

And as cities like Chicago are demonstrating, the Internet of Things not only has the potential to reshape how municipalities can harness a world of increasing object-driven data; it’s helping reshape how cities think about the nature of usable data.

In other words, all these new IoT data streams are actually like water, a natural resource. And just as water flows from many sources, government IoT data can also be collected, channeled, and processed like any utility — and serve as a powerful public good. …(More)”